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Tag: obesity

Adolescent & Childhood Obesity Reaches All-Time High

The number of obese children and adolescents rose to 124 million in 2016: more than 10 times higher than the 11 million classified as obese 40 years ago, in 1975. A further 213 million children and adolescents were overweight in 2016, finds a new study published Tuesday in the Lancet.

Looking at the broader picture, this equated to roughly 5.6% of girls and 7.8% of boys being obese last year. Most countries within the Pacific Islands, including the Cook Islands and Nauru, had the highest rates globally, with more than 30% of their youth ages 5 to 19 estimated to be obese.

The United States and some countries in the Caribbean, such as Puerto Rico, as well as the Middle East, including Kuwait and Qatar, came next with levels of obesity above 20% for the same age group, according to the new data, visualized by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration.

“Over the past four decades, obesity rates in children and adolescents have soared globally, and continue to do so in low- and middle-income countries,” said Majid Ezzati, professor of global environmental health at Imperial College London in the UK, who led the research. “More recently, they have plateaued in higher-income countries, although obesity levels remain unacceptably high,” he said.

Over the same time period, the rise in obesity has particularly accelerated in East and South Asia. “We now have children who are gaining weight when they are 5 years old,” unlike children at the same age two generations ago, Ezzati told CNN.

In the largest study of its kind, more than 1,000 researchers collaborated to analyze weight and height data for almost 130 million people, including more than 31 million people 5 to 19 years old, to identify obesity trends from 1975 to 2016.

“Rates of child and adolescent obesity are accelerating in East, South and Southeast Asia, and continue to increase in other low and middle-income regions,” said James Bentham, a statistician at the University of Kent, who co-authored the paper.

Obesity in adults is defined using a person’s body mass index, the ratio between weight and height. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is classified as a healthy weight, 25 to 29.9 considered overweight and 30 and over obese. Cut-offs are lower among children and adolescents and vary based on age.

“While average BMI among children and adolescents has recently plateaued in Europe and North America, this is not an excuse for complacency as more than one in five young people in the U,S. and one in 10 in the UK are obese,” he said.

Being obese as a child comes with a high likelihood of being obese as an adult and the many health consequences that come with it, including the increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The potential for these chronic conditions into adulthood also puts an increased burden on health systems — and financial constraints on individuals.

“We are seeing very worrying trends with pediatricians who have children come in as young as 7 with type 2 diabetes,” said Temo Waqanivalu, programme officer for population-based prevention of non-communicable diseases at the World Health Organization. WHO co-led the research with Imperial College London.

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Why Are Different Countries Obese?

Recently published studies dictate different causes and factors behind the public health epidemic of obesity, focusing on several different countries–many of which have varying reasons for their respective obesity epidemics.

The Pacific Islands, Middle East and Americas lead the way in terms of regions with the greatest obesity rates. In 2014, more than 48% of the population of the Cook Islands was classified as obese. Qatar led the way in the Middle East with 34%, followed closely by the United States at 33%, according to the World Health Organization.

Obesity is defined using a person’s body mass index, the ratio between weight and height, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 considered overweight and over 30 obese. The number of overweight or obese infants and children under the age of 5 increased from 32 million in 1990 to 42 million in 2013, according to the World Health Organization, with numbers increasing from 4 million to 9 million in the African region alone over that period.

While physical inactivity is said to be aiding the growing rate of obesity worldwide, for example as urbanization leads to more sedentary lives, experts point out that in some populations, exercise simply isn’t a priority.

This is evident in the Middle East and China, they say, namely through perceptions of exercise and its place on residents’ list of priorities. In Kuwait, focus groups from the World Health Organization found that locals consider exercise as sport rather than something done with a group of friends or at home, according to Temo Waqanivalu, team leader of population-based prevention of noncommunicable diseases at the WHO. “There’s a whole cultural barrier,” he said.

In addition, in the Middle East overall, it’s not considered the norm for women to take part in outdoor exercise or physical activity for leisure. “Having women exercise openly is a cultural issue,” he said. Across Asia and the Middle East, Hu thinks there is a great deal of misunderstanding. “Most people are not aware of the benefits of being physically active on their health,” he said.

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1/3 of World = Overweight

A new study reports that more than two billion adults and children across the globe are overweight or obese, and suffer from related health problems. Spurred by poor nutrition and low levels of physical activity, this number equates to one-third of the world’s population.

While 2.2 billion people can be classified as overweight or obese, more than 710 million are obese: 5% of all children, and 12% of all adults, can be categorized in this segment. The United States has the greatest percentage of obese or overweight children and young adults, at 13%.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that a growing number of people across the globe are dying from poor health, and problems linked to being overweight. “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk–risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and evaluation at the University of Washington, who worked on the study.

Researchers analyzed data collected between 1980 and 2015 from 68.5 billion people, and revealed that the number of people affected by obesity has doubled since 1980 in 73 countries, and continued to rise across most other countries in the analysis. Although the percentages of obese children were lower than adults, that rate at which their numbers have increased was greater–indicating greater future risk if nothing is done to alleviate and curb the growing problem.

“This raises the alarm that we may be facing a wave of obesity in the coming years across high and low income countries,” states Goodarz Danaei, assistant professor of global health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Because obesity levels have risen in all countries, irrespective of income levels, the issue does not simply boil down to wealth. The paper reads: “Changes in the food environment and food systems are probably major drivers.”

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Most Cardiologists Lack Nutrition Education

A recent study has found that the majority of cardiologists lack current, up-to-date education surrounding nutrition and diet. A report published by the American Journal of Medicine, authored by a dozen healthcare professionals in the United States and Spain, titled “A Deficiency of Nutrition Education and Practice in Cardiology” details that less than a third of cardiologists describe their nutrition knowledge as “mostly up to date” or better.

Although the leading cause of premature death and disability in the United States is heart disease, most cardiologists report inadequate training in nutrition. “Using nutrition as medicine is probably one of the most cost effective ways to treat disease but is incredibly underutilized by healthcare providers,” explained Andrew Freeman, M.D., a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, and one of the study’s co-authors. “If we could empower healthcare providers with information on how to implement this in daily practice, we could transform healthcare rapidly, prevent healthcare cost explosions, and reduce morbidity and mortality.”

Ninety percent of cardiologists surveyed reported receiving no or minimal nutrition education during cardiovascular fellowship training; 59 percent reported no nutrition education during international medicine training; 31 percent reported no nutrition education throughout medical school. Almost two-thirds of all surveyed cardiologists reported spending three minutes or less per visit discussing nutrition with their patients.

The report further noted that the total annual cost related to heart and vascular diseases in the United States is $315 billion, much of which could be lessened with proper nutritional training and implementation.

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Obesity Crisis Will Double Number of Stroke Victims

Fueled by the consistently worsening obesity crisis, cases of stroke victims are expected to almost double in the next two decades.

Experts note that the number of new strokes in the United Kingdom alone could jump by 44% by 2035; currently, more than one in four adults qualifies as obese or overweight—compared to one in thirty-five, a statistic from the 70s.

The Stroke Association has noted that poor lifestyles habits put people at a much greater risk of attacks, further commenting that the additional costs of skyrocketing cases could cripple public health service organizations.

While obesity significantly boosts the risk of stroke, some elementary lifestyle changes can be implemented in order to prevent cardiovascular disease: including eating healthier meals, and committing to an exercise routine. Statistics indicate that almost nine in ten strokes are due to long-term conditions like diet, lack of movement, and obesity.

Recent studies have also demonstrated that the risks for stroke also exist for younger people, not solely older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has more than doubled in younger children and teens throughout the past three decades.

The findings highlight the need to recognize obesity as a risk factor for stroke in younger adults, and take steps to control related conditions like high blood pressure and hypertension.

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Chronic Stress & Obesity: A New Perspective on “Comfort Food”

The biological connection between stress and obesity has long been suspected: during times of high anxiety and stress, people often crave ‘comfort foods,’ which are high in fat or sugar. Researchers have now found that specific hormones may play a significant role in this process: stress has been linked to biochemical changes that can trigger cravings, which lead to overeating, and ultimately result in obesity.

Specific biochemical reactions help explain this correlation: when we reach for fattening foods during stressful times, it is often an attempt to self-mediate—carbohydrates raise the body’s serotonin levels, the body’s ‘feel-good’ chemical. Researchers have also discovered that chronic stress can cause the body to release excess cortisol, a hormone critical in managing fat storage and energy use. Cortisol is known to increase appetite, and may encourage cravings for sugary and fatty foods.

More recent studies suggest that our bodies process food differently when under stress. One study found that lab mice, when fed a diet high in fat and sugar, gained significant amounts of body fat when placed under stressful conditions. Conversely, mice fed a normal diet did not gain as much weight—despite being placed under stressful conditions. Researchers linked this phenomenon to the molecule neuropeptide Y, which is released from nerve cells during stress and encourages fat accumulation. Diets high in fat and sugar appear to further accelerate the release of neuropeptide Y.

As physicians better understand the factors behind weight gain, they may be better equipped to help address the global obesity epidemic. Yet the most insidious aspect of the link between stress and obesity is that it is often self-reinforcing. When people are stressed and make unhealthy choices, they often gain weight, which only serves to further exacerbate stress.

While stress is an inevitable part of life, it does not necessarily need to lead to weight gain. By keeping portion size in mind, not allowing yourself to become too hungry, eating healthy snacks, and becoming more mindful about nutrition, we can avoid gaining weight when times are tough.

In order to gain more information surrounding nutrition, weight, and cardiometabolic disease, attend our CMHC Regional Conference Series. These one-day intensive workshops are designed to instruct participants in weight management, nutrition, and the prevention, management, and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Our upcoming agenda in Atlanta features a session titled Good Weight Management is Good Cardiometabolic Risk Management, delivered by Donna H. Ryan, MD.

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Failing Fertility: Obesity & Conception

A recent study has found that obese couples likely take longer to conceive.

An analysis from the U.S. National Institutes of Health suggests that when both a woman and her partner meet the criteria for obesity, their chances for pregnancy are approximately half that of a couple with normal weights.

While this research analyzes a new risk factor for obesity, previous studies have indicated a strong correlation between female obesity and reduced odds for pregnancy during a menstrual cycle—in addition to an association between men’s increased body weight and lower sperm count.

This study is particularly groundbreaking as it utilized couples hoping to get pregnant, not couples undergoing fertility treatments. Researchers took measurements of body fat before they conceived, and followed each couple for a year—or until pregnancy occurred. Moreover, many studies on fertility and body composition have previously focused on the female partner, yet these findings highlight the importance of including both partners’ weights

“Overall, obese couples were found to have approximately half the fecundability as couples with normal BMI,” wrote Rajeshwari Sundaram, from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

According to statistics, more than a third of Americans are obese, which consistently causes a variety of health issues. Obese and overweight people tend to have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies; fat cells also produce hormones that may interfere with the hormones involved in conception.

A project conducted by the Trust for America’s Health projects that by 2030, 44% of Americans will be obese.

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Obesity & Developmental Delays

OBESITY & DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS-02A study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health has found that children of obese parents are at higher risk for developmental delays, including less advanced motor skills and lower overall measures of social competence. The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, cited evidence that indicates approximately 1 in every 5 pregnant women in the United States qualifies as overweight or obese.

The investigators specifically found that children of obese mothers were more likely to fail tests of fine motor skills: the ability to control movement of small muscles, such as those in the fingers and hands. Children of obese fathers were more likely to fail measures of social competence, and those born to extremely obese couples also were more likely to fail tests of problem solving ability.

“The previous U.S. studies in this area have focused on the mothers’ pre- and post-pregnancy weight,” said the study’s primary author, Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in NICHD’s Division of Intramural Population Health Research. “Our study is one of the few that also includes information about fathers, and our results suggest that dad’s weight also has significant influence on child development.” Read more

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Heart Health: Staggering Statistics Urge Prevention

Heart HealthAs the number of Americans with heart disease increases, medical and health experts have been forced to come to terms with the enormous and far-reaching impacts of cardiovascular disease: the primary killer in the U.S., responsible for approximately 1 in every 4 deaths. Data recently released by the National Health Center for Health Statistics indicates that heart disease took over 633,000 lives in the past year—a 0.9 percent increase from the previous year, and the first upward spike since 1999.

A sustained rising trend has prompted scientists to evaluate and assess the methods and protocols that have traditionally been used to treat heart disease; Dr. Steven Houser, president of the American Heart Association, has articulated the need for more progress—with a targeted focus on prevention. Read more

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Linking Sleep Disturbance & Obesity

linking sleep Recent research corroborates theories regarding the link between sleep disturbance and a range of conditions, including obesity. In the journal Nature Genetics, a group of scientists recently published evidence from a study that assessed lifestyle and environmental factors, in addition to inherited traits that affect sleep disturbance and duration—ultimately concluding that areas of the genome are linked to sleep disturbance. The team also discovered genetic links between higher levels of excessive sleepiness during the daytime, and increased measures of obesity: including body mass index and waist circumference.

While there have been previously observed connections between sleep disorders and conditions in epidemiological studies, these biological links have never before been identified at a molecular level. Dr. Martin K. Rutherr, clinical senior lecturer in cardiometabolic medicine at University of Manchester and one of the senior authors of the paper, discussed the ways in which this clinical science can help take ‘an important step forward.’ Read more

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